With this conversation, we open a series of posts – women in IT. We start with an outstanding IT manager with many years of experience in building and managing technological organizations in financial institutions (GE Money Bank, Meritum Bank, Alior Bank, Nest Bank) – dr Grażyna Musiatowicz-Podbiał.
Why you became interested in the IT industry?
I always liked to solve charades, rebuses, and then there was interest in creating algorithms, or in principle searching for “recipes for solving” various problems. At school, I liked maths and sciences in general, because in them the correct solution does not depend on interpretation, emotions, attitude or prejudice. The situation is clear and clear. As you know, what method to use, it will be the correct solution, regardless of the intent or check attitude. This is beneficial in exact sciences. In contrast to, for example, the interpretation of the poem and the answer to the question, “what did the author mean …”, which seems difficult to me, because it can be debatable. Even if I like poetry very much, they may interpret it in their own way, not necessarily in line with the opinion of the evaluator. Therefore, I always liked mathematics and solving tasks, and in time I decided to enrich it with the element of solving problems with the use of a computer and – as a result – I went to study mathematics and IT (I did not accept artistic ones). Parallel to my studies, I was employed at a computer science center, which gave me a double perspective: both theoretical (at university) and practical (at work).
What exactly do you do and how did you get into the profession?
As I mentioned the work in IT, I started already during my studies. It was a conscious choice to have contact with real commercial computers, although it meant for me then giving up better paid work in another job. But I knew that in this way I choose a more interesting way of work. And so it began. I still think that this is a great place to work for people who are looking for opportunities to check whether and how we can solve specific problems.
For several years now (unfortunately) I have been more involved in the management of IT teams than in IT alone. Twenty years ago it was a multi-person band, and more recently: several hundred people. Fortunately, the basic condition of my interest is still met – solving specific problems of people and application users using the technology’s capabilities. I am still more pleased to design or organize IT architecture than to plan budget plans. Well, in every profession there is always a bit of what we like to do and what we have to do … It’s important that this second category does not fill 100%.
Did you have any concerns about entering IT, and if so what?
It was so long ago that I do not remember: -) No, I did not think I had. In fact, to tell you the truth, I do not know very well what you can be afraid of? As mentioned in the algorithmics or also processes of operation and maintenance in the technology movement, it is searching for good solutions for specific problems. And it is known in advance that this solution exists. Sometimes you have to put some effort into finding it. And contact with the machine is after all a pleasure! Machines do not have any fives, do not get angry and do not talk. If you configure them correctly or write the optimal code – they will certainly repay you with conscientious action. Hardly any other profession has such a comfort of cooperation. And if someone likes contact with people for a change, working in IT will find it too. All you need to do is choose a position: analyst, designer or project manager and over 90% of working time will be talking, negotiating, collaborating with people – future system users or their representatives. In a word – what he likes – will find in IT. What are you scared of here?
What are the advantages of women in IT in your opinion?
To tell the truth, at work I do not pay much attention to whether someone is a man or a woman. At work I usually look for and try to create optimal teams of project teams. Optimal, that is, the composition of people with diverse experience, diversified skills (complementing each other) and also different character traits. It allows you to look at the problem being solved from many perspectives, and then you can see more and better, more interesting solutions are created. And women and men can work in IT – especially if they like this job.
What do you think can be done to increase the number of women in IT?
This difficult question appears quite often lately. Honestly, I have such a difficulty with this question that it assumes in advance that women in IT are not enough. In fact, if we look at the statistics of the “presence” of women in IT positions, up to 50% is far away … But it could just as well be said that there are too few men in the teaching profession … What is just what I’m thinking … As I said, I was I do not like distinguishing people at work from men and women at all. In IT, we’re all IT specialists and everyone does better or worse. I do not want to interfere with this. I will say, therefore, maybe something controversial: I do not know how many women should be and how many men in IT. It is important that people who work with genuine passion and interest work in IT. Because when you do what you like, it affects both the effects of work and the atmosphere at work, which is – according to many studies – a very important factor that raises job satisfaction.
Personally, I think IT is a great job for both sexes equally, but as a mother of adolescent children, especially those who are starting to think about choosing a profession, I begin to see the problem of unwillingness to choose an IT profession from a slightly different perspective. Girls actually more often than boys do not perceive work in IT as interesting. Understanding work in IT is very narrow, as: “sitting all day over the keyboard”, most probably in the basement or in the server room. And this does not seem like an interesting and attractive activity, especially for social people, very contact people who have difficulty or unwillingness to work in a focused, individual way. It seems to be a job “not for them”. I am trying – and let it be my contribution to the interest of girls (and the boys) in IT work – to show how diverse the environment is actually IT. How many different professions can be done in it. Everyone can find something for themselves if they want. Will it work? I do not know. We will see you in a few (na) years 🙂
What would you advise women starting their way in the industry?
Just “do your own thing and do it well” and “appreciate your own successes and everyday achievements”. As I mentioned, in IT it is enough to do well what we have to do to be appreciated. Really. We do not have to do outstanding things, works of art, epochal inventions, every day (though of course they can happen). Similarly, I do not think that a woman must be “the best in a team” to be appreciated. I did not notice such a phenomenon, or at least I did not notice it in varying degrees in men and women. Not only do I expect and I never expected women at work more than men, but men-managers, whose assessment I had the opportunity to see, I did not notice that they consciously discriminated against women. While assessing the work of individual people, I did not notice that they applied a different measure to assess the work of men and women in the team. Probably in part, though it results from the higher than in some other professions, comparability of work effects.
If I had to point out one characteristic that I actually noticed in some (though not all) women, and over which it was nice to work – it would stop lowering the grade. I do not know where it comes from, but how the employee’s self-esteem was compared with the grade issued by his / her manager, it was more often that women judged worse than the boss judged them and I did not notice any one strong tendency in men. As I say, I do not know why it is so, since in IT it is very easy to check how much and how it was done. Well, because even if you think that something did not work well for you, it is enough to throw in your code and you can objectively measure how effective it is, and whether it returns correct results at all. Similarly, if you administer a system. He will very clearly indicate whether he works well or not. Well … Sometimes customers will also see … Whatever you think about yourself or thinks boss, colleagues, etc., you can find many objective measures of effort. That’s why – I highly recommend it to everyone – and IT work for both women and men! Provided that they will like her of course :-).